How Do I Know if I have a Virus ?

Viruses have been a problem for computer users for nearly two decades and the complexity of their attacks have become alarmingly more intense and frequent.  Originally, simply viruses were passed from computer to computer via floppy disk, but with the advent of the internet, and the popularity of email in the mid 90's, these malicious programs have caused billions of dollars of damage to computers and networks of all shapes and sizes.  Many companies have built their entire business model on protecting computers from viral attacks, ranging from annoying spyware to viruses that will destroy your entire operating system. 

problem for computer SHere are some alarming statistics about viruses that all computer users should be aware of. 

1 in 4 emails sent on the internet contains malicious code.

1 out of every 10 websites on the internet contains a virus threat.

Only 63% of computers  are protected by basic virus protection

Your chances of becoming infected this year are 1 in 3 by a virus.

12% of virus infections will result in you having to buy a new computer. 

All experts agree that is isn't a matter of if, but when your computer will be infected by a virus.   Ironically, the vast majority of computer virus attacks can be easily prevented using basic, readily available software, but true to human nature, many people don't take adequate steps to protect themselves until it is too late and their computers are seriously damaged by a nasty virus.   The good news is that there are several free solutions to protect your computer from viruses that are as effective as any paid product on the internet and I will discuss where to access these solutions later in this article. 

What is a Virus ?

A virus is typically a small piece of code that comprises a software program that works to cause your computer to malfunction.  Some viruses are simply designed to be a prank, while others have been engineered to be system killers.  More recently, malicious programmers have started to use viruses as a tool for mass identify theft scams that can result in the crooks gaining access to your bank accounts, and dozens of other personal data entries found within your computer files. 

How Do I Get a Virus ?

There are numerous ways to become infected, with the most common causes being email attachments, file sharing and adult websites.  99% of all viruses are designed to attack Window's based computers - which isn't to say that other systems such as Macs aren't vulnerable, it is just that with the overwhelming majority of the computers in the world running Windows software, it's not worth the time to design viruses that attack less popular operating systems.  

Over the past few years, Microsoft has taken numerous steps to increase security in XP as well as their new Vista operating systems.  In response, hackers and malware programs have taken to exploiting weaknesses in universally installed programs such as Winzip, Itunes and Adobe PDF readers. 

What Type of Viruses are There ?

Viruses come in all shapes and forms and each is designed to effect specific parts of your computer.  Many viruses are engineered to lay dormant in your computer - much like a time bomb waiting to wreak havoc on your system.  Some are designed with no real objective except to cause your system to malfunction, while others have specific tasks such as ferreting out personal data or opening back doors to your computer which allows a hacker to take control of your system without you knowing it.  There has also been an increase recently in what is called Drone attacks, which essentially means that the virus takes over your computer for the purpose of turning it into a tool for the hacker to send out millions of emails without you even knowing it until your Internet provider shuts down your account for spamming.  

What are the Signs of a Virus Infection ?

Many people suspect their computers have been infected by a virus, only to find out that it is a problem in their registry rather then a virus.  Virus symptoms are usually indicated by a specific programs not functioning or repeated problems that are always the same such as a program shutting down at the same spot.  It should be noted though that system crashes and slow operation are usually more the result of system problems rather than a virus infection. 

How Do I Check to See if I Have a Virus ?

The simplest way to check for a computer virus is to run a scan of your system using an anti-virus program - many of which can actually slow your computer down ( see Norton Anti Virus )  In my opinion, the best anti-virus protection program is from Kaspersky Labs which producesa a program called Kaspersky Anti Virus 2009.  Kaspersky is one of the best known hardcore antivirus companies in the world and their software is cutting edge. 

What if a Virus is Found on my Computer ?

If a virus is found, your anti virus software will either isolate it in quarantine so it cannot spread, or if possible, will remove it all together depending on the type of virus it is.  In some cases, if the virus has caused damage to your computer, you may need to have a technician have a look at it.  

Important Information About Protecting Your System

If you do not have spyware and virus protection installed on your computer, do so immediately.  This takes only a few minutes to install on your computer and can be performed by even the most novice computer user.  The threat of virus and spyware attacks on the internet is very real, and with the free tools available to protect your computer, their certainly is no reason to not be exposing yourself to the very serious problems a virus infection can cause. 

I also highly recommend backing up your system on a regular basis using a data back up program.  Programs such as Back Up Patrol will allow you to perform an entire file back up for free and is easy enough for any computer user to use.  

I Did a Virus Scan and it was Negative, But My Computer Still is Crashing and Running Slow ?

If you are wanting to perform a complete diagnostic and trouble shooting test on your computer, I’ve put together a full step by step guide on how to tune up the seven key components of your computer that covers everything from disk defragmenting to cleaning up your registry.  It will take you about two to three hours to go through all the steps to performing a full diagnostic and repair check on your system and is pretty comprehensive.